One would be hard-pressed to find a more idyllic city to live in within the United States than San Diego. Temperture climate, typically with fewer extremes than one sees in Los Angeles, relatively more affordable housing than either LA and, certainly, the Bay Area, and some really high-quality and decently-priced authentic Mexican food–because, hey, the overwhelming majority of its potential metropolitan area actually lives there.
It is that fan base, along with a generation of locals that have never tasted a World’s Championship, that are supporting the San Diego Padres as they appear in the post-season for only the seventh time in their 53-year history. The Padres have often been the source of ridicule and, clearly, have been seen as afterthoughts. Few franchises in any sport approached the lentgh and consistency of their underachieving. And clad in brown, and yellow (and sometimes orange), historically in some truly hideous uniforms, they looked pretty awful doing it.
But lately the Padres are vanquishing many of their historic demons, and actually starting to turn some heads. They broke a 14-year playoff drought during pandemic ’20, and early in ’21 Joe Musgrove pitched the first no-hitter in their existence, breaking the longest such schneid in major league history. And, as any Mets fan knows, it was the very same Musgrove that spun a one-hit shutout effort to eliminate a team that won 12 more regular season games than did the Padres.
And last night, in Los Angeles against the best team in the game this year, their big brothers and arch-rival Dodgers, they pulled dead even in their best of five National League Division Series with a 5-3 win. Even missing the talented but immature Fernando Tatis, Junior, this Padres team is showing unexpected power and grit. While Manny Machado hitting home runs isn’t surprising, Jake Cronenworth doing so is. Yu Darvish returning to Dodger Stadium and outdueling Clayton Kershaw is poignant and, to Dodger fans fearing this may yet again had been his last start in a Dodger uniform going out on the losing end was especially disconcerting.
So the Padres and Dodgers are not only tied in games at 1-, they’re tied in runs 8-8. And the next two games will be at Petco Park, filled with fans for the first time since 2006 for a post-season game, and clad in brown for a home game for the first time since 1984. The last time the Padres wore those colors in a home post-season game, the uniform design had overtones of the earlier teams that regularly finished in last place. These unis are still reflecting colors that frustrated Mets fans like this one who literally cracked me up while posting on social media with this observation as their season went well, into the crapper:
I can only imagine what Dodger fans are thinking this morning. After all, the Padres hadn’t beaten the Dodgers in any of their previous four post-season meetings until last night. One more demon exorcised.
Sure, the Dodgers are on paper still a far better team. Scheduled Game 3 starter Blake Snell was hittable. Tony Gonsolin was merely 16-1 in the regular season, so despite late season injuries things do point the potential of “normalcy” prevailing.
But these are anything but normal times. And these Padres aren’t the Padres of Steve Garvey, or even Tony Gwynn–senior or junior (though Junior is broadcasting some of these games). They’re surprising, eager, and may yet get more people beyond Otay Mesa to respect them, if not like them.
As long as they don’t break out their City Edition unis any time soon, I’ll at least give them that respect.
But forgive me if I still hope the Dodgers can eliminate them. They should. But these Padres are showing their true colors at the right time. It’s a lot less certain than it was 24 hours earlier.